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France

France moves to make presidents impeachable

© Joel Saget / AFP | The French parliament in session at Versailles, February 4, 2008

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-10-22

The French parliament voted Tuesday in favour of a draft law that could, for the first time, make it possible to remove the country’s president from office through a US-style impeachment.

The bill, already passed by France’s lower house, was approved by the Senate by 324 votes to 18.

It will now go to France’s Constitutional Council, which must decide if the bill complies with the French constitution, before becoming law.

If approved, the law would represent a radical change to the legal status of the French head of state – who has so far enjoyed greater legal protection than almost any other Western leader.

More power to parliament?

Under France’s current constitution, the French president is immune from criminal prosecution during his five-year term and cannot be removed from power except in cases of high treason.

The new law would not take away the president’s criminal immunity while in office, but would give parliament the power to move for an impeachment in the event of a “breach of his duties patently incompatible with the carrying out of his mandate”.

Parliament would have the power to begin the impeachment process through a two-thirds majority vote.

The case would then go to the High Court – a specially convened court comprised of members from both chambers of parliament and presided over by the president of the National Assembly.

The court would then have a month to make a decision, with two thirds again needing to vote in favour for an impeachment to be carried out.

'Temporary monarch'

Not all are happy with the bill, however. Members of France’s Communist Party (PCF), who voted against the law in the Senate, claim it does not go far enough.

“The President of the Republic is a kind of temporary monarch … exonerated from all democratic control,” said PCF Senator Eliane Assassi. “We are in favour of the president’s actions being subject to criminal proceedings … so we do not approve this bill.”
 

Date created : 2014-10-22

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